Add another odd twist to one of the most unlikely media stories of the past few years: Sidney Harman, an audio-equipment pioneer who burst on the scene last year when he bought Newsweek, died Tuesday at 92. The Daily Beast, which Newsweek merged with earlier this year, eulogized him as a “philanthropist, triumphant entrepreneur, government servant and steward of journalism.” The Beast said Harman died after a brief battle with leukemia.
Harman’s purchase of Newsweek from the Washington Post Co. was met with skepticism, given the publication’s staggering financial losses and Harman’s lack of publishing experience. Soon after the purchase, he began talks with Barry Diller, chairman of IAC and his eventual partner in what would come to be called the Newsweek Daily Beast Co. Harman lived long enough to see the merger through to completion, and then to see the redesign of Newsweek under Tina Brown, editor of the Beast, who was given editorial responsibility for the magazine as well. But while he was given the title of executive chairman of the new venture, he seemed to employees to be less visible at the company as time passed.
Harman’s death will inevitably lead to questions about the future of the partnership. He said recently he could afford to invest $40 million in the publication before cutting into his heirs’ inheritance.